Think this through: You’re a non-Christian seeking something more in life. Would you rather go to a Sunday “worship service” or get to know the guy at work who seems to experience a deeper joy in living?
We all recognize how uncomfortable it must be for “outsiders” to come into our assemblies. And we respond by making these assemblies less threatening and more welcoming. But is the answer really better music, more casual dress, and visitor parking? I believe the answer is living Christ into our communities, rather than asking our communities to come to us.
Yesterday I wrote about some disappointing tendencies in American churches. And God has convicted me lately concerning my criticisms of modern-day Christianity. I don’t feel called to stop evaluating our current methodologies. But if I’m willing to complain about the prevailing approaches in ministry, I ought to be more willing to suggest practical measures for overcoming these deficiencies.
I objected yesterday to attractional forms of ministry and an unhealthy fixation on the individual. In this post and the next, I intend to offer some practical suggestions concerning incarnational ministry and its implementation. I’ll address individualism in a later post. [For definitions and further explanation of incarnational versus attractional forms of ministry, see this post and the series attached to it.]
If we intend to minister incarnationally — to actually be Christ in our communities — there are a few critical issues we need to address.
1. It’s crucial that we be obedient to what we read in the Bible. We need to start reading the Bible for obedience, rather than knowledge. Our spiritual IQs are far too high to look so little like Christ. Here are some practical ideas:
- Focus on shorter passages of scripture.
- Think about the plain and simple meaning of the text.
- Before and after each Bible reading, ask God how you should be obedient.
- Be specific. Make a concrete goal that can be achieved.
- Write it down.
- Share with someone else how you intend to be obedient to God that day or week.
- Try a 3-column, inductive Bible study.
- I think you’ll find greater joy in this type of Bible study, and you’ll actually experience a life change — something not precipitated by most of our studies. Others will notice this transformation as well; often your obedience will lead you to minister to them, and always you will look more like Christ than you did before.
- I think you’ll also find it easier to share with others what God is teaching you, when what you’re learning isn’t theology and doctrine, but Christlikeness.
2. We should think less about inviting others to “church,” and more about inviting them to Christ. We need to de-emphasize our own congregations and stress life in the kingdom. Let’s stop concerning ourselves with attendance and “church growth,” and desire for others to experience true life and joy. Practical ideas:
- Don’t have as your end goal an invitation to church. Have as your end goal this acquaintance of yours experiencing Jesus. This is best done by treating them as Jesus would.
- You are every bit as capable as the minister or pastor to share your faith with others — maybe more so, in that you can do so without being accused of being paid for as much.
- Invite others into your life, not into a church building or a program. Ask them if they’d like to come over for dinner… or get a cup of coffee. Introduce them to other disciples who exhibit kingdom life.
- Better yet, find ways to intersect with their lives… on their turf. They have a favorite taco stand? Ask if they’d introduce you to it. You both like soccer? Go to a match. One of our goals is to stop asking others to leave their culture in order to meet Christ. Let Christ penetrate their natural community. And, as the body of Christ, this is our responsibility.
- Don’t start conversations about your preacher’s ability to teach or your church’s great music service. Talk about what God is teaching you and the impact it has on your life.
Tomorrow, part mbili (2).